Earth Day, April 22, 1970, was the official beginning of the annual tradition to recognize the importance of environmental safety concerns. It was started by Senator Gaylord Nelson after the 1969 oil spill off the coast of California.
Almost 50 years ago, about 21,000 gallons of oil was spilled into the water from a drilling platform. Unocal, which was called Union oil obtained a disclaimer from the U.S. Geological Survey, allowing them to build a safety covering surrounding the drilling hole about 60 feet shy of federal guidelines. The result was an explosion releasing tons of the black gold into the ocean.
The blast was so big the sea floor cracked in five places. Oil poured out of the ruptured tank, at the rate of 1000 gallons per hour. It took one month before they could even slow it down. Thousands of fish, mammals, and birds were killed by this disaster. The official cause was improper safety precautions. The 1970 spill changed the oil and gas exploration in California permanently.
It was reported as the worst oil disaster, until 1989, when Exxon Valdez collided with an iceberg and spilled millions of gallons of crude along the Alaskan coastline. The catastrophe was televised. Corpses of blackened dolphins and seals washed up on the beaches, birds were covered in oily goo, and the seashore was painted black.
Across the nation, people marched in the name of science defending it from government proposed budget cuts. Kathryn Oakes Hall, a marcher, in Sante Fe New Mexico, showed up nine months pregnant. She was upset at the need for her to be in today’s march but willingly participated because she is afraid that her unborn child’s future environment would not a safe place to grow up. Hall wore a white T-shirt with a picture of the globe across her stomach, and held a sign that said, “Evidence-based policy and not policy-based evidence.”
In 1970, Earth Day was all about 20,000 people who went out to the parks, auditoriums, and streets in protest for a more sustainable and healthier way of life.
Earth Day 2000
Denis Hayes organized a campaign of awareness centered on clean energy and global warming. A record breaking 184 countries, organized 5000 groups reaching out to millions. Earth Day 2000, was a combination of the central involvement of the event in 1990, and the testiness of the big picture first Earth Day. In 2000, people flocked to Washington D.C. by the hundreds of thousands and utilized the growing power of the internet.
Earth Day 2010
This year was especially challenging because it came at a time of much resistance from hesitant politicians, well-funded oil lobbyists, climate change deniers, and an uninterested public. In spite of these conflicts the Earth Day Network was able to restore Earth Day as a relevant and powerful important point.
As the 50th-anniversary approaches, the Earth Day Network has a strong desire to be more successful on Earth Day 2020. That year the slogan is, When it comes to the Earth there is no time to waste.
Earth Day 2017
Every year there is a topic. Earth Day 2017 is all about the theme Climate and Global Environmental education.
The conflicts of interest in 2017 are more politically motivated, with the Trump administration soon to introduce budget cuts to the EPA. The nation marches on, in a desperate attempt to make the Republican-dominated branches of government listen to their fears.
By Katherine Miller
Edited by Cathy Milne
L.A. Times: The 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill that changed oil and gas exploration forever
Boston Herald: The Latest: Science rallies around the world draw thousands
Earthday: The History of the Earth
Earthday: Global Environmental and Climate Literacy Campaign
Featured Image Courtesy of Greg Jordan’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Top Image Courtesy of Marcia Marton’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License